Behind the scenes: Security, maintenance staff share roles played in keeping school running

Tress Dorfler, Co-Editor-In-Chief

   Every day, thousands of staff, students and visitors go in and out of the school for a multitude of reasons. Organized chaos could evolve on any one of those days as each person comes with his or her own purposes and personalized schedules. 

   Then, after each school day, there’s a number of different events that are organized and hosted, which could add to the chaos. 

   Unbeknownst to many students and staff who are often busy with their own lives, there’s a potentially even busier group of dedicated security officers and maintenance staff who keep each day running smoothly. 

   “[Students] show up to an event, and see it’s there, right? But, we are here before and after the event is over. When you go home, we’re still here. Before you get there, we’re setting everything up so that you can have a great time,” said Head of Security Cathy Schmidt, who just retired from the position in mid-October.

   Schmidt spent 22 years as a law enforcement officer and five-and-a-half years as Sears Centre Arena Security Manager with Andy Frain Services (AFS). She continued to work another five years for the NOW arena (formally Sears Centre) as Front of House Manager.

   While there are different aspects to working at an arena and a high school, the skills Schmidt gathered at the Sears Centre helped her to excel at MHS. 

   “You still have to act the same; you still have to make sure that you have people in the right places at the right time,” Schmidt said. “You have to handle the situation appropriately.” 

   Joe Lendino, security officer, met Schmidt working at the Sears Centre. Lendino moved on to protecting schools, starting in West Chicago, then became a site supervisor at Glenbard East High School. Lendino also coached football for 20 years and has additional experience working with students.

   “I was very active in the youth groups at [my] church, and I do have four kids as well, so understanding what went on there is what allowed me, when I got into security, to bring my knowledge in so that I have the opportunity to be able to interact and have an understanding of what’s going through a high school teenager’s brain,” Lendino said. 

   Working with struggling students is one of the many responsibilities of security. Schimdt mainly works on making sure her team is completing Hero intake, which is an app used to check students in as they enter the building, monitoring the busses, watching the lunchroom, ordering signs and uniforms, keeping track of keys and IDs, knowing students are where they’re supposed to be and answering calls of distress from staff– whether it’s in an emergency situation or just in-the-moment need for some advice.

   Students also turn to security to build relationships with staff members.

   “[The] majority of the time we can have students coming and talking to us and saying,  ‘Hello, how’s your day?’ The motivational aspect of [the job] comes from the interactions and the relationships we’re able to form with students,” Lendino said. 

   While the perception of security can be negative or even seen as a threat by some, security staff members want students to know they are really here to help them.  

   “We try to motivate; we try to work with students to not be sandpaper,” Schmidt said. “We want to motivate [them] to get [their] degree, to move forward, to get to class, and it’s not because we’re being mean; we want [them] to be educated.”

   As a result, Schmidt noted that “people really [don’t] know us very well, but [security staff members] try to make that happen.”

   “We say ‘hi’ and try to get along with everybody,” Schmidt said. “We want to be friendly.”

   Another group here to support the efforts of staff and students behind the scenes is the maintenance staff, which is led by Head of Facilities and Maintenance Kevin Quinn.

   “I came here not knowing anything about the facility or the community, and I really have strong feelings for the community, being the students involved and attending here, the staff that works here; they’re very important to me,” Quinn said.

   His skills and background as a combat engineer in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and then a mechanical contractor in Chicago for 15 years gave background to necessary systems of a high school.

   “We have systems in the building that are behind the scenes, so we have mechanical systems, electrical systems that we need to check. We’re very sensitive to the temperature inside the building, making sure that’s correct. There’s the way our building is pressurized so that it maintains a certain pressure in the building, [and] it’s all related, really,” Quinn explained. 

   There are 110 mechanical pieces of equipment on the roof of the school and inside the building in areas that people often don’t see that control the indoor environment. It is critical that the environment is monitored correctly, and varying mechanical and electrical systems are put in place to do that. 

   Therefore, Quinn starts his day at 4:30 a.m. every day to check on and maintain these systems that regulate high-use areas. 

   “I walk around every morning, and I check systems,” he said. “I make sure that there’s nothing that needs our attention in the course of a day, and then I plan a work schedule for the day.”

   In order for a school to function, then, the whole community has to come together to make it work, Quinn noted, adding, it’s a collective effort of students, staff, teachers and the community families to appreciate one another. 

   “Everybody takes advantage of a community asset, which is this school,” he said. “To some degree, everybody does [appreciate our work]; it’s just how they utilize and recognize that. Some people don’t recognize it on a daily basis; it doesn’t mean they don’t have an appreciation for what’s being done,” Quinn said.

   Additionally, Quinn orchestrates a team of workers who maintain the systems needed to regulate the environment and the custodians who come to clean the school at night, so it’s clean for the next day. 

   “This building reflects us collectively,” Quinn said. “It is a representation of who we are as a community. When people drive by or people visit here or we’re learning or working here, it’s a reflection of who we are and what we hope to be and what we can be.”

   He stressed how we must work together as a community to work toward that goal of a safe, healthy and clean learning space. What the custodial and maintenance staff do depends on students and staff, and vice versa. 

   “We depend on [each other] to take pride in this because it is a representation of us,” Quinn said. “The critical part is that it’s a collective effort. We appreciate the students and staff that are here. I would encourage everyone to say thank you to the custodians.”